by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
As Ted Venema, PhD, writes in the TriCity News, it’s a myth that only old people lose their hearing. Venema notes that the delicate structures of the middle and inner ear weren’t meant “to endure the smashing wall-of-sound intensity from earbuds connected to our handheld devices.” He uses the term presbycusis, which is hearing loss occurring with age.
Hearing loss as people age is very common–half of all people over 65, 80% of those over 80, and virtually everyone who survives to 100 has hearing loss–but I think what is called presbycusis is largely noise-induced hearing loss, not normal physiological aging.
The bad news for loud listening is that auditory synapse and nerve damage, causing distortion, tinnitus, hyperacusis, and difficulty understanding speech in noise, can happen long before any measurable cochlear impairment or hearing loss on standard audiometry. Unfortunately this is much worse than strictly age-related hearing loss in older adults, which is mainly due to metabolic and mechanical changes in the cochleas or inner ears due to the natural aging process.
But whatever age you are, it’s far better for everyone, young and old. to protect hearing by avoiding loud noise exposure.
Because if something sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your hearing is at risk.